Author: Alison Goodman
UK Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
See Also: The Dark Days Club
Brighton, July 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is spending the summer season in Brighton, where she will continue her Reclaimer training and prepare for her duties as a fully fledged member of the Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, believes that a Grand Deceiver has arrived in England, and there is no time to lose in preparing Helen to fight it.
As she rushes to complete her training, Helen finds herself torn between her loyalty to Carlston and the orders of the Home Office, who wish to use her to further their own agenda. Meanwhile, the Duke of Selburn seems determined to try and protect her, irrespective of the risk to himself. With so much at stake, Helen must make an agonizing choice between duty and devotion.
The first thing I will say about this book is that I was right – it did get off to a much quicker start than the first in the series, because there was no requirement for scene setting and exposition. The Dark Days Pact follows Helen in Brighton, where she is staying with the Hammond siblings after being disowned by her abusive uncle. It shows us her training to become a Reclaimer, and her trying to solve the mystery of Lord Carlston’s increasingly erratic and unhinged behaviour, as well as trying to get a journal which may contain secrets to her parents’ deaths as well as a cure for Carlston. All whilst trying to keep her good name in society, and fend off the increasingly persistent attentions of the Duke of Selburne after she ended their engagement weeks before.
It was, personally, a relief for me to have Helen’s uncle removed from the picture, however as the book continued I found myself becoming concerned about Selburne where previously I had quite liked him. He refuses to take no for an answer, but it is clear that most of this is to do with his vendetta against Carlston rather than his affection for Helen. He forces himself further and further into her life, not listening to her instructions or acknowledging her abilities and standing. It will be interesting to see how this develops further in book three, but it does show some dangerous signs of leaning towards another controlling relationship. The romance and tension between Helen and Carlston is great as well – they have excellent chemistry, and the reasons keeping them apart are sensible and well-considered, meaning that you get that great yearning, slow-burn from them without it feeling contrived.
I have really enjoyed the way Goodman balances the perils of a dark fantasy plot against the social restrictions placed on a woman in Regency Britain. It makes for an interesting barrier to action, and means that the characters have to think more creatively about how they approach issues. Most notably, Helen gains a male disguise, but as a result has to cut her hair short which causes her some distress. It adds a new dynamic when the issues are not just whether magic is kept secret, but also how Helen will physically accomplish what she needs to do when society is as restrictive towards women as it is.
Now that the world building and exposition from the first book is out the way, we get to see more development of characters, and get to really sink our teeth into the meat of the plot. I’m looking forward to the next instalment, to seeing how the tangles which have developed will unravel. In the first book there was little sense of an overarching plot in some ways because it was so bedded into the immediacy of establishing the world and story – in this book you see the potential for further development and that the issues are further reaching than this volume.
I am definitely looking forward to the next one in the series, which I believe is due out this November.
- A strong sequel which picks up the pace on the plot and allows more time to develop characters.
- Perfectly situated in Regency England, and thoroughly researched. Deals with social issues and the restrictions these impose, exploring these in the plot.
- If you liked The Falconer or The Parasol Protectorate, you will enjoy this thoroughly.
Rating: 4/5 – a great sequel, I am ready for the next one!